Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed watching Tommy Lee Jones preforming… He was like this serious guy with a rather mysterious personality that never disappointed me. Probably some of you might find weird this affection with Mr. Jones and I know this because I’ve never met anyone who didn’t find this strange after hearing about it. With all this being said, you might understand my enthusiasm for Tommy Lee Jones’ most recent project, The Homesman, a movie that was exhibited during the Cannes Film Festival. A return to the old days when Westerns ruled the show with a modern and more dramatic approach that captures a lost essence in a quite disturbing and violent tale about trust and about paying our debts… Starring Hillary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones in two absorbing performances, The Homesman was directed by Tommy Lee Jones.
When three women are driven mad by their life and their husbands, the city where they live tries to save them by sending them to a woman who agreed to take care of them. However, what would seem a pretty easy job suddenly becomes a hard task when the three women have to be carried across the country in a covered wagon. When men revealed themselves as cowards, the independent woman Mary Bee Cuddy (Hillary Swank) decides to take the job and to take care of those poor women in this journey. Assisted by her “employer” George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), Mary will have to handle all the stress and all the dangers of a long trip to give the three women a place suitable to live.
In The Homesman nothing seems easy to handle with and during two hours there is no time to rest from violent situations that in a way reveal some of the worst aspects of our nature. While Mary seems brave at first, she soon will see that accepting this job was the stupidest decision she could ever made because there are no perks and the risks were too high. Even accompanied by a man hated by many of the villagers, George Briggs, the sense of tiredness and her lack of strength was unavoidable. Taking care of three disturbed and crazy women was by far a lot worse than she thought and even Briggs wasn’t able to take care of his job. Trapped in an honorable debt after being saved by Mary, Briggs is a cranky old-man who lives a life without rules and ethics and who desperately needs a reason to live by. Briggs is a man without hopes and who wants to keep living with his non-inspiring interests and ambitions and while the story develops, he becomes a more tolerable man with a quite interesting personality I would love to fully understand. In this struggle for fulfilling a troubled mission, Mary sees herself trapped in a lonely life and she sees this journey has her last shot in this field. A quite interesting and dramatic performance by Hilary Swank that impressed me for her constant struggle in a journey that never seemed to have chances of success. Tommy Lee Jones also did a great job with a character that passed through some troubled times and that manages to find himself when everyone was counting on him.
The Homesman is a really tough experience in the sense that there is no time to rest from difficult events. While one witnesses Mary’s journey, nothing good happens and honestly the whole thing looks more like a drama than a western. Even though Tommy Lee Jones gave his best to bring back the style and essence of the Western genre, the fact is that I never felt absorbed into this sad and tough story that lacks emotion and things to make me feel attached to what is going on. There are devastating events that are a bit difficult to be experienced and only in the end the viewer sees some compassion in the characters. When there is action in the middle of the picture, The Homesman reaches a quite pleasant level of intensity that is quite interesting to see. However, in the more dramatic aspects the movie failed since I did not feel attached to any of the characters. Their struggles, their problems and their emotions were combined with the violence of the Old West which reduced the emotional impact of the movie. Either way, mostly because of Jones and Swank’s good performances, The Homesman ends up being enjoyable even though it failed in being both a western and a drama. While the emotional side fails, the performances of these two actors saved a story that doesn’t have anything to cheer for. The Homesman is a story about the old days when honor mattered most than anything to men and in the end, I felt forced to accept the fact that perhaps there were no happy endings back then. Strong, violent and sometimes difficult to watch, The Homesman had the potential to become a memorable movie and unfortunately that wasn’t enough. Still, thanks to Jones and Swank’s performances, one has reasons to see the emotional struggle these two go through in a journey that might be the most dangerous mission of their lives.